If the mission in front of the Hillsboro Hiltoppers was to defend their number one seed in the Carlinville Holiday Tournament when they opened play on Monday, Dec. 27, their 89-38 victory over Gillespie surely accomplished that. Every facet of play was dominated by the Toppers: they shot well (56% from the field), totalled nine threes, had two players, Drake Vogel with 22 and Gavin Matoush with 21, reached the 20 point mark though neither played in the clock-ran-constantly fourth quarter, and defended well without fouling.
Gillespie is a capable team, with decent size (reserve forward Bryce Hohnsbehn is a solid 6’4” sophomore, and their leading scorer in the game, Kamryn Link, is a 6’4” junior who scored 14 points).
However, their youth and thus varsity inexperience made them open to exploitation by the veteran Toppers and their pressure defense. The Miners started a freshman, two sophomores, and two juniors. Hillsboro committed 12 turnovers, but they benefited from 22 Miner presents.
Hillsboro, with Vogel’s and Matoush’s points all coming early (Matoush had quarters of eight, seven, and six in order before resting in Quarter Four, while Vogel rang up eight, two, and twelve in the same time frame) established the 30 point lead necessary to cause the mercy clock to begin when the fourth period began. Also helping were an eight-point second quarter by Blaine Stewart while younger brother Jace added five then, seven overall. That starters-can-rest last period might be important later as each team has to play four games in four days.
Besides, the bench players need court time to develop depth for the team; that seemed to be a weakness as the season began. Bryce Connor (5), Deklan Riggs (4), and Dillon Devlin (three) provided the Topper points in the last frame while Brayden Fowler hustled well as a defender; the ten on the game roster displayed more energy and smoother teamwork than the Toppers had in their previous three games, all losses against Mascoutah, Pana, and Altamont.
Leading 51-28 at the half, Hillsboro outscored the Miners 26-4 in a very decisive third quarter. Point guard Tristan Wargo had two free throws and a field goal to account for Gillespie; six Toppers scored, and the winner was decided.
Not only did Vogel and Matoush reach double figures, four other Toppers (Will Christian with nine, Blaine Stewart with eight, and Connor and Jace Stewart with seven each) were within a make or two of the magic 10 mark. As a team, the Toppers were 62% inside the arc (29 of 47) and 43% behind it (9 of 21). They only shot six free throws, making four. Gillespie was 6 of 10 from the charity stripe.
Vogel’s seven rebounds total was the Topper best; Connor and Riggs each had seven, Christian and Blaine Stewart each had four of Hillsboro’s 21 assists, and Christian had four of his team’s 16 steals. Christian, Blaine Stewart, and Connor each had a block.
The win propelled Hillsboro into the late (7:30 p.m.) game against Staunton Tuesday evening, Dec. 28; that game is reported elsewhere in this issue of The Journal-News.
Dec. 27 at Carlinville
Carlinville Holiday Tournament
Hillsboro 20 31 26 12 89
Gillespie 12 16 4 6 38
Hillsboro (89) - Drake Vogel 22, Gavin Matoush 21, Will Christian 9, Blaine Stewart 8, Bryce Connor 7, Jace Stewart 7, Blaze Helton 6, Deklan Riggs 6, Dillon Devlin 3. Totals: 38-68 4-6 89.
Gillespie (38) - Kamryn Link 14, Tristan Wargo 9, Bryce Buhs 6, Bryan Jubelt 6, Bryce Hohnsbehn 4. Totals: 15 6-10 38.
Three-point field goals: Hillsboro 9 (Vogel 4, B. Stewart 2, Christian 1, Connor 1, Devlin 1); Gillespie 2 (Link 2).
Records: Hillsboro (6-6), Gillespie (1-7).
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